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Cooper in 1974
(by Allan Warren)
21 February 1937
Hornchurch, Essex, England
|Notable works||Rutshire Chronicles|
|Spouse||Leo Cooper (1961–2013, his death)|
Jilly Cooper, CBE (born 21 February 1937), is an English author. She began her career as a journalist and wrote numerous works of non-fiction before writing several romance novels, the first of which appeared in 1975. She is most famous for writing the Rutshire Chronicles.
Jilly Sallitt was born in Hornchurch, Essex, England, to Mary Elaine (née Whincup) and Brigadier W. B. Sallitt, OBE. She grew up in Ilkley and Surrey, and was educated at the Moorfield School in Ilkley and the Godolphin School in Salisbury.
Journalism and non-fiction
After unsuccessfully trying to begin a career in the British national press, Cooper became a junior reporter for The Middlesex Independent, based in Brentford. She worked for the paper from 1957 to 1959. Subsequently, she worked as an account executive, copywriter, publisher's reader and receptionist.
Her break came with a chance meeting at a dinner party. The editor of The Sunday Times Magazine asked her to write a feature about her experiences. This led to a column in which Cooper wrote about marriage, sex and housework. That column ran from 1969 to 1982, when she moved to The Mail on Sunday, where she worked for another five years.
Cooper’s first column led to the publication of her first book, How to Stay Married, in 1969, and which was quickly followed by a guide to working life, How to Survive from Nine to Five, in 1970. Some of her journalism was collected into a single volume, Jolly Super, in 1971.
The theme of class dominates much of her writing and her non-fiction (including Class itself), which is written from an explicitly upper-middle-class British perspective, with emphasis on the relationships between men and women, and matters of social class in contemporary Britain.
As with her non-fiction works, Cooper draws heavily on her own point of view and experiences. For example, her own house is the model for Rupert Campbell-Black's. Both houses are very old, although his is larger;  her house overlooks a valley called Toadsmoor, while his overlooks a valley called the Frogsmore. She also draws on her love of animals: dogs and horses feature heavily in her books. Woods, hills, fields, pastures and rivers feature frequently.
In 1975, Cooper published her first work of romantic fiction, Emily. It was based on a short story she wrote for a teenage magazine, as were the subsequent romances, all titled with female names: Bella, Imogen, Prudence, Harriet and Octavia.
Octavia is one of Cooper's "name" books, which each bear a female character's name, and has been made into a television adaptation. It is set in Britain during the 1970s. The broadcast ITV adaptation was produced with a screenplay which was written by Jonathan Harvey.
One character was modelled on George Humphreys, a Welshman with whom Cooper had an affair in the late 1950s.
The Times noted that Cooper avoids the traditional romantic convention in which the heroine remains a virgin until the last page. Elizabeth Grey found the jokes annoying but still funny, and confessed to falling in love with the character of Octavia.
Octavia Brennan is a beautiful yet flawed young woman, living the high life in 1970s London. Though she is deeply flirtatious and has - by her own admission - slept with many men, she has never found happiness with any of them.
After bumping into an old school friend, Gussie, and falling for her fiancé, Jeremy, Octavia is invited to spend the weekend with them on their canal boat. Characteristically, she convinces herself that Jeremy cannot possibly have real affection for the overweight and clumsy Gussie, and she is determined to win Jeremy by the end of the weekend. But when Jeremy invites Welsh firebrand Gareth Llewellyn along for the ride, Octavia finds her plans disrupted in more ways than one.
Production began on 17 September 2007, in London. Cooper was invited to make a cameo appearance as a guest at a party. Its broadcast was delayed according to a Broadcast Now article in early 2009 as a consequence of the recession - ITV put many of their dramas 'on ice'; postponing single dramas until later that year. The Guardian reported early in 2009 Octavia had no transmission slots for the forthcoming year and said, for accountancy purposes, its cost would not counted until the show was broadcast. Octavia had its first UK screening in 2009 with Tamsin Egerton taking the title role.
The cast was:
- Tamsin Egerton as Octavia Brennan
- Patrick Baladi as Jeremy West
- Richard Coyle as Gareth Llewellyn
- Tom McKay as Xander Brennan
- Alice Glover as Lorna Hamilton
- Joel Fry as Charlie Mancini
Riders and the Rutshire Chronicles
However, Cooper's best-known works are her long novels. The first of these was Riders (1985), an international bestseller, and the first volume of Rutshire Chronicles. The first version of Riders was written by 1970, but shortly after Cooper had finished it, she took it with her into the West End of London and left the manuscript on a bus. The London Evening Standard put out an appeal, but it was never found. She was, she says, "devastated", and it took her more than a decade to start it again.
Riders and the following books are characterised by intricate plots, featuring multiple story lines and a large number of characters. (To help the reader keep track, each book begins with a list and brief description of the characters) Although the books do not always follow each other sequentially - Rivals and Polo chronologically overlap, for example - they are linked by recurring characters (chiefly Rupert Campbell-Black, Roberto Rannaldini, and their families) and later books make reference to events of previous books.
Each book of the Rutshire Chronicles is set in a glamorous and wealthy milieu, such as show jumping or classical music. These aspects are contrasted with details of the characters' domestic lives, which are often far from glamorous.
Her novel Pandora is not one of the Rutshire Chronicles, but does feature a few characters from the series, and is very similar in style and content. Wicked! follows the same approach, including characters from previous novels and introducing new characters who are relatives, friends or rivals of existing characters. It is set in the fictional county of Larkshire, which borders her other fictional county, Rutshire.
Her novel Jump! was released in 2010. It features characters from Rutshire Chronicles in the world of National Hunt steeplechase racing and tells the transformation of a mutilated horse (Mrs Wilkinson) into a successful racehorse. Since publishing Cooper caused controversy around the naming of a goat in the book (Chisolm) to hit back at the critic Anne Chisholm.
Cooper also wrote a series of children’s books featuring the heroine Little Mabel.
In 1961, she married Leo Cooper, a publisher of military history books. The couple had known each other since 1945 (when Jilly Sallitt was about eight), although they did not marry until she was 24 and he was 27. The couple were unable to have children naturally so adopted two children. They also have five grandchildren. The Coopers' marriage was greatly disrupted in 1990 when publisher Sarah Johnson revealed she and Leo had had an affair for several years, though Jilly and Leo got back together later. In the 1980s, the couple left Putney, London, for The Chantry, an old manor house in Gloucestershire. She was a passenger in one of the derailed carriages in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash of 1999, and crawled through a window to escape. She later spoke of feeling that her "number was up" and of being absurdly concerned, due to shock, about a manuscript she had been carrying.
Awards and honours
Cooper was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2004 Birthday Honours for services to literature and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to literature and charity.
Film, TV, or theatrical adaptations
Television adaptations of Cooper's novels are relatively few but have been accepted by national network ITV.
List of works
- How to Stay Married (1969)
- How to Survive from Nine to Five (1970)
- Jolly Super (1971)
- Men and Super Men (1972)
- Jolly Super Too (1973)
- Women and Super Women (1974)
- Jolly Superlative (1975)
- Supermen and Superwomen (1976)
- Work and Wedlock (1977)
- Superjilly (1977)
- The British in Love (1979)
- Class: A View from Middle England (1979)
- Supercooper (1980)
- Violets and Vinegar: An Anthology of Women's Writings and Sayings (1980)
- Intelligent and Loyal (1981)
- Jolly Marsupial (1982)
- Animals in War (1983)
- The Common Years (1984)
- On Rugby (1984; with Leo Cooper)
- On Cricket (1985; with Leo Cooper)
- Hotfoot to Zabriskie Point (1985)
- Horse Mania! (1986)
- How to Survive Christmas (1986)
- Turn Right at the Spotted Dog (1987)
- Angels Rush In (1990)
- Emily (1975)
- Bella (1976)
- Harriet (1976)
- Octavia (1977)
- Imogen (1978)
- Prudence (1978)
- Lisa and Co. (1981; also known as Love and Other Heartaches)
'Little Mabel' series:
- Little Mabel (1980)
- Little Mabel's Great Escape (1981)
- Little Mabel Wins (1982)
- Little Mabel Saves the Day (1985)
The Rutshire Chronicles:
- Riders (1985)
- Rivals (1988; also known as Players)
- Polo (1991)
- The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous (1993)
- Appassionata (1996)
- Score! (1999)
- Pandora (2002)
- Wicked! (2006)
- Jump! (2010)
- Mount! (2016)
- Obituary: Leo Cooper, telegraph.co.uk, 2 December 2013
- "Biography with magazine quotations". Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 27 August 2004.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Cooper, Jilly (16 February 2003). "Cover story: The voices for and against war". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- Conlan, Tara ITV rides high with Cooper, The Guardian (19 July 2007)
- Coming Up Archived 28 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine thecustard.tv
- Hanks, Robert, "First Lady of Rutshire", The Guardian (1959–2003); 18 Mar 1996; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821–2003) and The Observer (1791–2003) pg. A4
- "Not a simper in sight". Elizabeth Grey. The Times (london, England), Saturday, 3 Jun 1978; p. 9; Issue 60318.
- Shoard, Catherine, "Paperbacks", The Evening Standard (London), 4 February 2008, pg 41
- TV PRODUCTION EVENTS - NEW LISTING, myentertainmentworld.com
- Jilly Cooper official webpage Archived 21 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine (December 2007)
- "ITV Vows iced dramas will go out this year" Broadcast Now (February 2009)
- Dowell, Ben (12 February 2009). "ITV delays single dramas in downturn". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
- Olivia Laing. "Jump! by Jilly Cooper". The Guardian.
- Laing, Olivia (12 September 2010). "Jump! by Jilly Cooper". The Observer. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
- "Jilly Cooper takes revenge on critic by naming goat after her". Telegraph.co.uk. 11 October 2010.
- Elizabeth Grice (17 September 2010). "Jilly Cooper interview". Telegraph.co.uk.
- Interview by Richard Barber. "Jilly Cooper: 'My books are my babies' | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
- Barber, Michael (3 December 2013). "Leo Cooper obituary: Publisher of military history books and husband of Jilly Cooper". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
- University Announces Honorary Awards Archived 19 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine University of Gloucestershire
- "Jilly Cooper - About - Biography". www.jillycooper.co.uk.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jilly Cooper.|
- Jilly Cooper The official books website
- Jilly Cooper's Video Newsletter for May 2008 BizView.tv
- Jilly Cooper's Video Newsletter for December 2007 BizView.tv
- Biography with magazine quotations at the Wayback Machine (archived 21 February 2008) at 'SBillington.com'
- The queen of chick lit The Guardian, 15 June 2004 - Article about Cooper's writing
- Jilly Cooper An interview with Jilly recorded in 2000 by meettheauthor.co.uk